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The title of this third and final volume on the “Meaning of Life” calls first for close attention. What, we may ask, is the meaning given here to the term “Theology”? If that word were to mean “the rational analysis of a religious faith” (O.E.D.), surely a system of verbalized doctrines must be presupposed. And also presupposed is some unstated ground, in experience, for judging right and wrong when propositions of that kind have been set up. One must surely not accept as true a declaration without basis in experience or understanding.

Here, on the other hand, nothing is presupposed. The mind is opened to a certain kind of experience, which we have been able to develop in our lives, while being also able to understand the nature and implications of such experience and to develop it. No presupposition, in ideas or words, is to be made. We take the “idea” or “phenomenon” in question and dissolve it logically, so to speak, into its prior “causes”. Today this means for intelligible discovery is called Phenomenology.

“Theology”, here, then means the application of the phenomenological method to our awareness of the “Divine”, in the wholeness and detail of its meaning, omnipresent in our lives if only we adopt the right releasing and uplifting attitude in life. Experience of the Beautiful is the first approach to the wholeness of what is Divine; and the selfless givingness of Love is what brings us to the essence of Divine Humanity.

What we are to consider here, then, is the experience of the divine Reason (Logos), in everything of life, always working for advancement of the good. The experience which gives or leads to this is today described as mystical. So here we study what has been said or depicted regarding the mystical, also the way to proceed for its attainment and development, and what the most notable teachers in the past have seen fit to declare.

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This third volume on the “meaning of life” deals accordingly with the fruits of spiritual development in three chief ways. Firstly, every conclusion reached is based on and in accord with the mystical and psychical experience granted to me over the course of about 80 years (with some even earlier). My diarised descriptions now number more than 7000, all the experiences being in some way apart from the physical body and in another state of life, mystical or psychical. All those experiences whose descriptions are quoted have a reasonably high “General Index of Reality” (as calculated in Vol.1). The very wide range of these experiences will be seen particularly in Part IV of this book; but attention should also be given to the descriptions in various chapters of Vol.2 of this series and also in my earlier book ML, 1961.

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Secondly, there is needed an intensive study of ancient scriptures, which I have felt obliged to study in the original languages: Vedic, Sanskrit, Pali, Hebrew, and Greek. Translations of these scriptures have almost invariably been made by scholars lacking mystical experience. The words chosen then, when a passage refers to experience at a mystical level or describes features of the “mystical way”, almost inevitably suggest a non-mystical meaning, quite false or irrelevant in actual experience.

Here, whenever the need arises, the relevant terms in the original language are given in brackets immediately following the mistranslated term or grammatical construction. The reader can then check the accuracy of my translation by reference to a lexicon in that language. If it is the grammatical construction or its interpretation which has been misunderstood, an expert in that language could be consulted. This is vitally important, since the mystical harmony of the scriptures in very diverse languages of the past cannot be realised without the misleading translations being corrected.

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Knowledge of quite another kind is also needed, philosophical and indeed mathematical in character, if the consistent rational development of objective phemonena in other-world states of life (and even in the physical world) is to be understood. In this connection, it is of fundamental importance to realise that two kinds of 16-fold creative cycle are involved, loosely distinguished as psychological and cosmic, respectively. The difference may become clear if we consider first the simpler fourfold forms, symbolized as the four quarters, ESWN, in every ancient religion of note. This needs to be understood.

The psychological cycle is as follows: impulsion of purpose, valuing and choosing of means, skilful action, letting-go and secret upbuilding. An analogy with the “stations of the sun” (dawn, zenith, ground, underground) is obvious.

The cosmic cycle is spatio-temporal, but related to four “directions” in spiritual development: “forward” (E), to the “right” (S), “trial” of skill (W), and “letting go” (N) for incubation. If these are done well, one rises spiritually. These four “spiritual” directions can be seen as represented in any world by four kinds of “cosmic” measure: x, y, z, t, the measure z being upward, and x and y on the level. But two non-measurable dimensions of time (stopping, and shifting, T and t) must be allowed for.

It is easy then to see that each stage has three substages, making a 12-fold cycle. And if one includes connecting terms, the cycle becomes a 16-fold one. But that is actually derived from a prior system of logical categories, timeless (Essence) or timed (Existence) plus the I AM, consciousness and Will. The 16 terms are then distinguished by number-pairs. For example, 61 is “actuation of purpose” (enthusiasm) in the psychological version. (See Vol.1, p. 204).

Accepting now that a “world” requires a “field” of connecting structures able to evolve in a certain way, we can determine any particular event by coordinates x,y,z,t plus T and t. And all logical relationships between them holding for one observer in a world must be consistent with those holding for every other observer there. The demands of Tensor Calculus, then produce for us the physical laws of the electromagnetic field and the foundations of Relativity and Quantum Field Theory. (The law of gravitation in this physical world is derived another way).

Here, to guard against the materialism rife today, a fairly simple introduction to this work is provided in Chapter 2. And Supplement A sets out to show in more detail how this logical derivation of physical laws comes about mathematically, in the manner of Euclid, by reasoning from first principles.

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When the question of “reincarnation” arises, it is very necessary that the structuring of personality in this world, as exhibited in many chapters of Volume 2 of this series (DSD), be understood. Here emphasis must be laid especially on the core identity carried by the line of consciousness for any human individual. Evidence shows that this is covered over by a ruling identity, carrying the I AM, but with the core identity concealed by shifting identifications with influencing contributory minds from above, below, or on the level. The core identity is what is revealed in the mystical transformation, bringing the divine I AM and Divine Source to consciousness.

It is wrong then to say that we, as personalities in this world, might be reincarnated. On the other hand, if we were to say that the secret core identity cannot come again to a life in this world, where all spiritual progress is grounded, then we are assuming what Einstein called a “dice-playing” God – one who predestines some individuals at birth for final upliftment in their core identity, while other individuals are predestined either to remain for ever bound to the lower worlds, or else to pass away for ever.

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Something must now be said about the so-called “synoptic” Christian gospels (of Matthew, Mark and Luke). These, if understood as demanding that a certain historical individual named Jesus be identified in a unique, total and eternal way with the universal deity, would rule out the possibility of a universal theology, covering all major religions of ancient times.

Here it will be useful to refer first to a book entitled “the Riddle of the New Testament”, by E.C. Hoskyns, who is described by Bishop Stephen Neill (in “The Interpretation of the New Testament”, 1966) as “a world-famous theologian” (op.cit., p.213). His chief publication was the book mentioned, written with assistance from his pupil Noel Davey.

On page 14, Hoskyns comments on the remarkable fact that in the whole of the New Testament, apart from the three synoptic gospels, “the theological interpretation not only precedes the history, but almost renders it unnecessary”. And a little later he admits (p.152) that the view proposed by some other theologians of his time, that early Christianity was “neither more nor less than a mystery religion”, would solve many problems. Unfortunately he himself does not exhibit any vestige of mystical knowledge, besides being ignorant of the mystical language and teachings of other religions.

In consequence, he continues to see the “synoptic” gospels as basically historical narratives concerning the life of a physically-living human individual. Since that attitude seems to be firmly established among practicing Christians today, and even among those held to be authorities, attention is here drawn to the following specially intractable difficulties in maintaining that belief. A multitude of such difficulties could in fact be adduced.

(1)         Representations of warriors (not māgī) worshiping the Divine Mother and child go back at least some 200 years before the gospels. There we see the Mother and Son, perhaps with the Divine Sun depicted overhead, like a star, two warriors with shields on their backs, and jars with healing spices behind (see Ch.7 below). Such representations are said to have been popular in the catacombs. The gospels therefore give an account, in this case, of what is a mystical teaching, not a historical event.

(2)         In the Greek festivals for Dionysos (“Son of God” in Phrygian) the Divine Child is carried about in a harvesting basket. Dionysos is also “God of the Vine” (as in John, Ch.15). And in another festival, he comes out of the waters (of the sea) to the sound of a trumpet (heralding the mystical release and upliftment). St Paul takes up this teaching in 1 Thess 4:16 and 1 Cor 15:52.

(3)         There are several references to the twelvefold cycle as represented in the Zodiac. Firstly, the list of twelve apostles includes one pair of twins (as in the teachings of Vedic India, Rome, and elsewhere). And the Greek equivalent of the Crab (an ass and its foal) is made use of for the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (as into the second or determinative quarter of the Zodiac).

Here it needs to be understood that in the “saving” fourfold cycle, N represents the Mother (of spirituality), E the Son (bringing true creativity), and S the Daughter and Bride (wise choice; forward drive being now dormant). Going “down to earth” in W finalises the intention as well as it is given us to do at the time. The fishes discovered in the waters (N) then represent the emergence of a new life from the “letting go” and “expansion” having been mystically learnt. The first disciples had therefore to be fishermen (Matt, 4:18f)

(4)         A very striking feature of all four canonic gospels is the antagonism to Jews, shown in spite of Jesus and the disciples being presented as Jews. The antagonism is perhaps at its worst in Chapters 5-10 and 18-21 of the gospel credited to St John (a Jew), as were Paul, Peter, James, and other leading figures in what we now call Christianity. It is in John (Ch.8) that Jesus (a Jew) is said to tell the Jews, “You are of your father the devil … He was a murderer from the beginning … and there is no truth in him”.

But the Bar-Cochbar rebellion of 132-135 C.E., which took the emperor Hadrian’s armies three years to put down, and in which the Christians (following St Paul, and his converts) supported Rome, makes this antagonism easy to explain. No-one knows how many Christians were murdered or driven from their homes. But the opposition must have been intense. The chapters describing the crucifixion, as being demanded by “the Jews”, must surely therefore be dated after 130 C.E., or more probably about 135-140 C.E. The reference surely cannot be to a physical event happening a century before.

(5)               The assertion in the Gospels (Matt.27:63; Luke 24:7,22,46) that Jesus “rose from the dead” in three days, said to be scriptural, surely points to a passage in Hosea 6:1-3. But what we read there is a description of the three stages in “salvation”. Thus, “He has struck us down, but will bind us up … And after [these] two stages (yāmīm, “days”) he will revive us, and we shall live in his sight”. It seems clear that the evangelists have on purpose twisted Hosea’s declaration of mystical truth for everyone, so as to make this part of the story of Jesus as historical more vivid and convincing for the uninitiated.

That is in accord with the saying (Mark 4:11) that for those “without” (understanding of the mysteries) “all is presented in parables”. It is also in accord with Luke’s parable of “The Unjust Steward”. (Luke 16: 1-8), who, one may say, reduces our contract for strict truth, so that, initially, something specially appealing may get across to the ignorant. But I believe advances in the 20th century have now made possible, and indeed highly desirable, the provision of a straightforward account of “mystery teachings” of the past.

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It is not necessary in this Preface to adduce more of the abundant facts incompatible with the historical, supposedly not parabolic, interpretation of the “synoptic” gospels. But something more needs to be said about the name Jesus Christ, as a rendering in English of two Greek words.

The Greek name, Iesous Christos (in Hebrew, Yē-shūa, “the Lord saves”, in the sense of Hosea), will be rendered here as “the Anointed Saviour”, where the word “anointed” implies a total dedication to the Right and Good. The equivalent of Christos in Hebrew (that is, of “anointed” or “consecrated”) would be Nāzūr (the verbal root NZR meaning “to consecrate oneself”). From this we get the English words Nazarene and Nazarite, the Greek being Nazaraios. This last term, applied to Jesus, comes in Matt.26:7 and John 18:5. Later in the New Testament writings, presumably because the word was not understood, Jesus is said to come from Nazareth (the th being added) four times in Luke. Eventually, as in Acts (2:22, 3:6), the reference is to Jesus of Nazareth, although he is said to have been born in Bethlehem, the city where David was anointed as king.

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Turning now to the Historical Survey, Part III, there are several matters requiring comment. Firstly, I have restricted the inquiry to writings reasonably taken to refer to first-hand mystical experience in history up to about 120 C.E. This is because there is good reason to believe that, after that date, the earlier and genuine accounts of mystical experience have been built on by theologians and others who had not been granted such experience. Justin Martyr, for instance (died c.165 C.E.) insisted that all the Gospel details of Jesus’s execution (copied from the messianic psalms or other O.T. books) were prophesies of a genuinely historical event. An altogether greater figure, exhibiting genuinely mystical understanding, was Clement of Alexandria (died c.215 C.E.) But appeal to Clement here would have confused the issues.

It might be urged that this inquiry should have something to say about Islam. But the great obstacle here is that I do not know Arabic, and have no time to become proficient in it. Knowing how other sacred texts have been distorted in translation, I cannot make an exception in this case, especially as the text of the Koran is poetic, spoken impromptu; and one may therefore expect the language to be very largely figurative. But authoritative answers to two questions might be helpful: What is meant by (1) the terms “Day of Judgment”, “that day”, etc. which appear every few pages, and (2) “Jesus son of Mary”, as in verses 26, 45, 46, and 171?

The argument is much stronger for considering here the evidence provided by Swedenborg in 26 volumes published in the last 23 years of his life, and about 15 more (including his six-volume “Spiritual Diary”) published later. He could be described as the father of Modern Spiritualism, since he seems to have been conscious of, and in communication with, spiritual presences most of the time. But he regarded himself as primarily a theologian.

Whether he is properly regarded as a “mystic” is nevertheless somewhat doubtful. He evidently accepted without question that the synoptic gospels gave an account of historical truth, and because he could find no recognition of this in St Paul’s letters, he conceived of St Paul as little short of demonic, in fact a low-grade spirit taking the name of “Paul” was presented to him many times; and not once in his many thousands of quotes from the Christian scriptures did he quote from St Paul, till his very last published work.

This misfortune would not have happened to him if his extraordinary spiritual gifts had gone along with a more normal mystical development, covering the unitive transformation (as a “Son”). But for some reason this was denied him; for nowhere in his colossal output does he give any indication of his having in the spiritual worlds a bodily form and personality different from the physical.

Also in his “guided writings” (as one may perhaps call them), there is no mention of the “creative cycles” (4, 12, 16) as such. Much is told us about the “quarters”. But spirits in the releasing basis of spirituality (the “north”) are characterized as “those who are in darkness as regards the truths of faith”. And the north also “signifies the darkness in man” (A.C. 1605).

But mystics have made worse mistakes than this; and it would surely be foolish to reject the fund of deep insights communicated by him concerning the spiritual worlds, because of limitation in some other way.

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One other specially difficult matter calls for preliminary comment in this Preface – the presentation, even in first century Christianity, of the divine as always and exclusively male. Although Paul and John (in the Gospel and letters), and no doubt others of the time, recognized disclosure of a patterning on the Divine Humanity (in them) as a “ Son”, the disclosure of the divine to a mystic who is female in core identity, as “Daughter” or “Bride”, is never mentioned. (The later doctrine of Mary’s “Assumption” and “perceptual virginity” seems to be an attempt to remedy the situation.)

I had originally planned to include a chapter on “Mary the Magdalene”, as an instance of a mystic of that time having attained to the Transforming Union as a “bride”. For surely, along with all those “sons”, there should have been a least one “bride”. There are several arguments in support of the view that one such mystic was so named. To mention one strong argument, cognomens in Hebrew regularly describe the function or character of the being named first. Thus: Jesus Christ, Simon Peter (the “rock”), Judas Iscariot “man of destruction”, Jesus of Nazarene. Mary the sister of Lazarus is never distinguished as Mary of Bethany.

So “the magdālene”, in Hebrew, points to someone raised up, like a tower, for watching or defence (for migdāl is such a “tower”). She could then be “Mary the Eminent”. Add to this the fact that in the gospel of Philip (prior to the canonic gospels) there is an obvious likening of her to the woman beloved in The Song of Songs, and there is a case for accepting that, historically, there was such a woman. But this book sets out to deal only with indisputable evidence.

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A final cautionary remark is needed in this Preface. People need, in their lives, some kind of ritual, centring their minds on the Right and Good, and opening them to the possibility of other worlds and higher guidance. But this book is strictly on the evidence of direct experience regarding theology, life in other worlds of possible experience, and the bearing of all this on the wise conduct of life in general. A comparison of rituals and their differing value in the various religions is held to be beyond its scope. 

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